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Oh My God, Dream-Eating Tapirs!

So apparently I lived to nearly thirty-four years of age without ever learning that the Japanese have a mythological creature called the baku that is a tapir that eats dreams.

I cannot believe no one ever mentioned this to me. On the other hand, since everybody is pointing out that they’re in the one Neil Gaiman book, which I just remember being about a fox and a Buddhist monk, apparently it was my own fault that I missed it.

Now that I am aware of its existence, I am obviously deeply and profoundly in love.

His hand is glowing, because that's just how he rolls.

Also, it finally explains that Pokemon Drowzee, which I always kind wondered about.

Baku are actually a bit more chimeric than a straightforward tapir, having the body of a tiger and the head of a tapir, except that tapirs are obscure and elephants are obvious, so now they’re often tiger-elephants, and also they have the tail of an ox with the big floof at the end required by all Asian mythological creatures* and possibly also the eyes of a rhinoceros, although nobody seems to be tracking that last one too closely.

So this is 8 x 8—fooling around with technique, he’s a fairly loose digital sketch, printed, sealed, coated with clear gesso, and worked over with colored pencils, acrylic ink, and some white acrylic. The clear gesso gives it a serious grainy texture, which lets the colored pencils act almost like pastel over the dark background, and gives is a little more texture, while the colors are bright and saturated enough that I’m surprised by how slick the thumbnails look.

And I gotta say, he was just unbearably fun to do. I mean, sure, tiger-pawed tapir that eats dreams! Of course that was fun! But the size and the composition was a lot of fun, too—I love doing the close-ups like that, and I hardly ever do them because there is still that tiny voice in my brain going “If you don’t have a full background and body shot and everything, people will think you can’t draw!” and while I have killed any number of those little voices—there is an entire wing in the basement of my brain where the bodies are piling up—this one’s a wiggler.

ANYWAY. Prints! I guess an original for sale, too, although much like the Squash Kachina, there cannot be that many fangirls on this topic (although I dunno, Neil Gaiman never wrote a book about the Squash Kachina, and oh god, if only.)

But yes. Prints. Yes.


*I occasionally wonder, given the floof, if there was some kind of extinct breed of peacock-ox bred specifically for the size and quality of their tails. This would obviously be a non-pooping breed of ox, possibly explaining why it is now extinct.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


I think your dream-eating tapir belongs on a coffee cup. A rather large coffee cup, maybe one of the 24-ounce ones.

Wait, which Neil Gaiman books has a baku? Or for that matter, a buddhist monk and a fox? Clearly I need to reread some of his books.

That one that was a Sandman offshoot w/illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano. (I forget the title.)

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Unless they're the fetal form, I can't figure out Musharna at all, except that it is reeeeally kinda creepy. (Come to think of it, Drowzee and Hypno are rather more unsettling than they could be.)

But yes, Baku are supposed to be basically benevolent, if my quick googlification is any indication.

We probably all assumed you already knew about those.

Japanese mythology has some pretty interesting creatures, from the stock Tengu to those ghosts that take off their faces to scare people. Also, any common object that survives 100 years comes to life. (Except possibly eggs)

So, instead you get some sort of Japanese zombie chicken?

Completely off-topic from the current comments, but...
You often mention "sealing" in your art process, related to some sort of printed sketch that you put onto a board. Like magic. What is this sorcery and is there a cheap way to do it? Please?

Get some Liquitex ultra heavy matte gel, spread a thin, even layer with your fingers on your board, apply paper, smooth down. The heavier the paper the smoother it works. You then may want to apply a thin layer of either matte medium or clear gesso to provide a better working surface--depends on the paper and how much abuse you're gonna give the surface.

Hope that helps!

I love that! And I love how the ancient Japanese creature has a cartilage piercing.

You know about the Kappa, and why cucumber rolls are called kappamaki?

Some friends of mine have a baku mask they made, I will see if I can get a picture of it.

Apparently you were receiving the psychic vibrations that Wednesday was World Tapir Day.

I learned about the baku from Urusei Yatsura, personally.

It's also in Vampire Princess Miyu.

There's a baku adaptation in yu+me:dream, too: http://rosalarian.com/yume/?p=1518. He was so cute before the twisting of Nod.

I love baku!
My favorite J-Pop artist, Otsuka Ai, has a song that references it called "Yumekui" ("Dream Eater").
The music video has some really cute animation and an adorable stylized baku: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0QyOZaeySY

Lyrics/translation here: http://www.channel-ai.com/about1644.html

Beautiful picture!

And now you need to get ye hence and watch a copy of Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer. It's an anime that really looks more like an art film, has a focus on dreams vs. reality, and has some truly awesome imagery and neat extrapolations of Japanese mythology. And yes, it has Baku in it.

Oh, it's on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkuBXi8Mq-c

Exactly, although he's not a tapir in that [spoiler avoided].

It also features Mujaki, the demon who creates the dreams.

Hunh, that explains the plot of Cocoron then.

(Obscure original-Nintendo game where you explore dreams, guided by a magical tapir...)

YOU SHOULD DO MORE CLOSE-UPS. *ahem* Sorry, that was a bit... abrupt. I don't normally comment on your art or what you should or should not do with it, but I love this close-up portrait style! It's so much more intimate, and I feel like I get to see a lot more detail of facial expression and just detail in general. Also, I particularly love the colours and lighting of this one.

So, more dream-eating tapirs, should you feel so inclined! More close-up portraits of... well, anything, really! Love!

You absolutely need to check out some Urusei Yatsura Anime.
Especially the 'Beautiful Dreamer' movie.

Trust me...